The “Why” of Our Work (by Daryl Conner)

The primary question in life is, “What are you doing with what you’ve been given?
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As change practitioners, we spend a lot of time refining what we do (facilitate change) and how we go about doing it (applying our various concepts, methodologies, etc.).

Professional disciplines can’t function without a solid what and how foundation, so the time and attention we invest in these kinds of activities is clearly justified. In the process, however, we should be careful not to lose sight of the why of our work.

It’s important to stay mindful of why we are so motivated—some of us even driven—to engage in this occupation.

Without a solid understanding of why we do what we do, there is no passion—no soul in the work.

When addressed honestly, there are many possible answers to why we are change practitioners:

  • “It allows me to make a living and provide for my family.”
  • “I gain satisfaction in helping achieve specific change goals for my organization or my clients.”
  • “I like to excel at whatever I do and this work keeps me on my toes.”

These are all legitimate and admirable motivations for being a professional change facilitator, but I want to draw our attention to a different altitude of why…where aspirations beyond self-gain reside. I want to talk about the fulfillment that comes from applying one’s professional talents to a greater good…whatever that greater good might be.

The Ultimate Why

When we act with a sense of purpose, we unleash both energy and a dedication that have the power to transform a job into a calling. Having a clear and compelling answer to “Why am I doing this?” allows us to invest our hearts as well as our minds and bodies into the profession. We come to the work with our whole being, instead of just the brains and brawn needed to accomplish specific tasks.

To move past basic motivators for being in this line of work, we must ask why questions like:

  • Other than earning a living and keeping myself intellectually stimulated, is there meaning to being a professional change facilitator?
  • Does the fact that I help implement change create sustainable differences in the lives of the people I work with or the ones I work for?
  • Does being a change practitioner have any relevancy and positive impact on the challenges faced by people beyond the organization(s) where I work?

If the answer to any of these or similar questions is yes, there is depth to our profession beyond satisfying bosses and clients. As such, it is in our best interest to be clear, not only with ourselves, but also with our colleagues, about the importance we place on our work. Without this clarity, we run the risk of straying off course or missing alliances with others who might share our passion.

There are as many perspectives on why change facilitation is a worthy profession as there are practitioners. You have yours; I have mine. The inquiry requires introspection, and our answers are often very personal, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep them to ourselves.

Maybe by opening up to each other about the deeper agendas we have for pursuing this line of work, we will find new inspirations and new common ground. The point isn’t to seek a single, homogenized one-size-fits-all answer, but for those comfortable doing so, I believe there is value in sharing our passion for this kind of work.

In my next post, I’ll talk about why I feel it is so important to be in the change business, and say more about changes that matter.

(this article appeared earlier on Daryl’s blog ChangeThinking)